Full Metal Panic!
With the rising threat of terrorism looming over the nations of the world, a secret multinational organization, Mithril, has been created to combat terrorists by striking at their heart with advanced weaponry and highly trained and specialized soldiers. The source of Mithril's sophisticated equipment are people known as "Whispered", human databases of "Black Technology". In order to keep a suspected Whispered, Kaname Chidori, out of enemy hands, Mithril assigns a young sergeant by the name of Sagara Sousuke to enter her high school as a student and watch over her. Sagara, although he's sixteen years old, has never lived a normal teenage life and chaos ensues as he tries to deal with both his duty to protect Chidori and his cover as a student.
Wow, it was difficult to write a synopsis of this anime without giving too much away! Despite the somewhat mundane (for anime) premise, this series is anything but. Gorgeous animation, wonderfully written characters, exciting action scenes with interesting and well researched mecha designs, and equal doses of adventure and (sometimes dark) comedy make Full Metal Panic stand tall above the many other titles released along side it this year.
The animation quality is of the same outstanding caliber that we of T.H.E.M. have begun to expect from the wizards at Studio Gonzo. Rich, detailed backgrounds offset and highlight the smoothly animated characters and mecha. The computer aided inking is expertly done and various CG (including water and heat distortion, lighting effects and even fog and smoke) are flawlessly integrated into every scene. Combined with the excellent sound track and effects, this series just begs to be played on a big screen with full surround sound.
However, good animation alone does not a classic make. You need a well-written story and likable characters to tell it, and Full Metal Panic has those as well! Every character, even minor players like Chidori's high school friends, are distinct personalities with their own motives, personal habits, and even facial expressions. The various relationships depicted are real enough to seem plausible without becoming trite, yet fun and interesting to watch as well. The love-hate relationship between Major Melissa Mao and her would-be playboy subordinate Sergeant Kurz Weber is especially amusing.
Being a markedly shounen title, Full Metal Panic has more than its fair share of giant robots, guns and explosions, and it does them all well. While some of the mecha, like the robotic Arm Slave combat mechs, are decidedly fictional in nature, other things like personal weaponry, helicopters, naval ships, even the automobiles seen driving around town, are rendered in meticulous detail. Fans of action will not be disappointed in the slightest, and fans of mecha will be (and most likely already are) scouring the online catalogues for tech books and sketches.
Best of all, Full Metal Panic is fun! Even some of the more dedicated shoujo fans of T.H.E.M., and even a few members who are more into live action Sci-Fi and literature *love* this series. It's one of those shows that somehow manages to transcend the usual stereotypes and become something that fans of all stripes can enjoy together. Even if you normally don't go in for action-oriented anime, this remains highly recommended.
If you really, *REALLY* don't like mecha or fighting or anti-terrorist organizations with names that reference J.R.R. Tolkien, then you may remove one star...but you're weird. — Jason Bustard
Recommended Audience: People and mecha fight, and characters die. There is blood sometimes, but it is neither gratuitous nor graphic on a level that would be overly offensive for a show of this type. There is also some cheesecake in the swimsuit/panty shot vein, and some stylized nudity. Recommended for the teen crowd and up.
Version(s) Viewed: Prerelease fansub; R1 DVD
Review Status: Full (24/24)
Full Metal Panic! © 2001 Shoji Gato • Shikidouji / Mithril
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